USS Edsall (DD-219)

USS Edsall (DD-219) was a Clemson class destroyer that served in the Middle East and Far East in the interwar period, then took part in the disasterous attempt to defend the Dutch East Indies before being sunk by overwhelming Japanese naval forces on 1 March 1942.

The Edsall was named after Norman Eckley Edsall, a sailor on the Philadelphia who was killed during an American intervention on Samoa on 1 April 1899.

The Edsall was launched at Cramp’s of Philadelphia on 29 July 1920 and commissioned on 26 November 1920.

The Edsall’s shakedown cruise took her from Philadelpha to San Diego, where she arrived on 11 January 1921. She spent the rest of 1921 on the west coast, taking part in battle practice and gunnery drills with the fleet. She then moved to Charleston, arriving on 28 December.

Refugees from Smyrna on USS Edsall (DD-219), 1922 Refugees from Smyrna on USS Edsall (DD-219), 1922

Her next assignment was to the Mediterranean, departing on 26 May 1922 as part of a flotilla that included the Bulmer, Litchfield (DD-336), Parrott (DD-218), MacLeish (DD-220), Simpson (DD-221) and McCormick (DD-223). The destroyers reached Gibraltar on 22 June and the Edsall arrived at Constantinople on 28 June. She joined the US Naval Detachment in Turkish Waters, with the task of protecting US lives during the civil war in Russia and the war between Greece and Turkey. She also took part in famine relief efforts in eastern Europe, and acted as a mail ship. She was one of a number of American ships that helped evacuate refugees during the great Smyrna fire of 1922. On 14 September she took on 607 refugees from the Litchfield (DD-336) and transported them from Smyrna to Salonika. On 16 September her commanding officer, Cmdr Halsey Powell, became the senior officer directing the evacuation from Smyrna. Eventually some 250,000 Greek refugees were evacuated, after the failed Greek attempt to conquer Constantinople and parts of western Anatolia.

Anyone who served on shore between 16 September and 2 October 1922 qualified for the Smyrna Expeditionary Medal.

On 1 June 1924 the Edsall and the Bulmer passed through the Strait of Gibraltar, heading west to the United States. She arrived at Boston on 26 July 1924, where she underwent an overhaul.

The Edsall’s next assignment was to the Asiatic Fleet. She left the US east coast on 3 January 1925, and took part in exercises st Guantanamo Bay, San Diego and Pearl Harbor before she joined the Asiatic Fleet at Shanghai on 22 June 1925, in the aftermath of a period of turmoil in the city. In June-July 1925 she put landing parties ashore at Shanghai to protect US interests in the city. Anyone who took part qualified for the Shanghai Expeditonary Medal.

Anyone who served on her during one of fifteen periods between 16 January 1927 and 25 October 1932 qualified for the Yangtze Service Medal.

In 1931 she served with the Yangtze Patrol, during the Japanese occupation of Manchuria.

In 1935 she was one of a flotilla of destroyers that visited French Indochina.

In the autumn of 1937 she was part of the American fleet that moved to Shanghai to protect US interests during the Japanese attack on the city.

Anyone who served on her during four periods between 7 July 1937 and 4 September 1939 qualified for the China Service Medal.


Just before the outbreak of war in the Pacific, the Edsall was one of a number of Asiatic Fleet ships that were sent to Balikpapan on Borneo, to place them nearer to their potential Dutch and British allies. On 6 December she set sail for Batavia, along with the tender Black Hawk and the destroyers Whipple (DD-217), Alden (DD-211) and John D Edwards (DD-216), forming Destroyer Division 57. When news of the attack on Pearl Harbor arrived, the tender was ordered to Surabaya. The destroyers were sent to Singapore, where the plan was for them to cooperate with HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse, but those capital ships were sunk by Japanese air attack on 10 December. The US destroyers put to sea to try and find survivors from the disaster, but without success. The Edsell did capture a Japanese fishing trawler with four small boats in tow and escorted it to Singapore.

Refugees from Smyrna on USS Edsall (DD-219), 1922 USS Edsall (DD-219) from the left

On 20 December the Houston left Surabaya, haeding for Darwin, Australia. Later on the same day the Houston joined up with the Edsall, Whipple (D-217) and Alden (DD-211). The combined fleet entered the Indian Ocean via the Alor Straits on 21 December, and escorted the auxiliaries Otus, Pecos and Gold Star to Darwin, arriving on 28 December 1941.

On 30 December the Houston, Edsall, Stewart (DD-224), Alden and Whipple put to sea heading for the Torres Strait, and a rendevous with a convoy coming from Hawaii.

On 30 December the Edsall put to sea once again, with the Houston, Stewart (DD-224), Alden, and Whipple, heading for the Torres Strait.


The small fleet reached Normanby Sound on 2 January 1942, met up with the convoy on 3 January and returned to Darwin on 5 January.

On 17 January the Edsall and Alden (DD-211) left Kebola Bay (Amor, Dutch East Indies), to escort the Trinity to Australia.

On 20 January 1942 the Edsall became the first US destroyer to sink a major Japanese submarine during the Second World War when she attacked I-124 with three Australian corvettes (HMAS Deloraine, Lithgow and Katooba), just off Darwin.

On 17 February she left Tjilatjap to escort the oiler USS Trinity (AO-13) on the first stage of a voyage to Iran to collect fuel oil. The Edsall was soon ordered back to port, leaving the Trinity to continue alone. She safely reached Abadan in Iran on 9 March, by which time the battle in the Dutch East Indies was already lost.

On 19 February the Edsall was damaged when one of her own depth charges exploded prematurely during an anti-submarine attack.

On 26 February the Edsall and Whipple left Tjilatjap to meet up with the former carrier Langley (AV-3), by now serving as an aircraft tender.

On 27 February the Langleymet up with the Edsall and the Whipple (DD-217). This soon proved to be an utterly inadequate screen. At 11.40 nine twin engine bombers attacked the formation. On the third attack the Langley took five hits. Aircraft on deck caught fire and her steering was damaged. She began to list to port, and was unable to get through the entrance to Tjilatjap Harbour. At 1332 the order was issued to abandon ship, and she was sunk by her escorts. The Whipple took up 308 survivors from the Langley and the Edsall picked up 177.

On 28 February the destroyers met up with the oiler Pecos (AO-6) off Flying Fish Cove on Christmas Island. The initial attempts to transfer the survivors from the Langley to the Edsall were interrupted by Japanese bombers, but the task was completed on 1 March. The Edsall then departed for Tjilatap.

Japanese picture of USS Edsall (DD-219) sinking, 1 March 1942 Japanese picture of USS Edsall (DD-219) sinking, 1 March 1942

The Edsall never reached her destination, disappearing somewhere on the voyage. At the time the fate of the Edsall and the Pillsbury, also lost at the same time, was unclear. By 24 March the Edsall was being reported as missing and presumed lost, with her last known location in the waters south of Java.

Japanese reports say that she was attacked by four battleships from the 3rd Battleship squadron (including Hiei and Kirishima), two cruisers from Cruiser Division 8 and two bombers from the carrier Soryu. The Edsall ended up trailing behind the Japanese fleet, raising concerns that she was part of a more powerful force. The Japanese thus attacked with a powerful force, overwhelming the solitary destroyer. Eight survivors were rescued by the Chikuma, but were later murdered in prison camps. Her last moments were recorded from the Tone, and part of the film still survives.

Edsall received two battle stars for World War II service, for service with the Asiatic Fleet (8 December 1941-1 March 1942 and sinking I-124 (20 January 1942).

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

35.51kts at 24,890shp at 1,107t on trial (Preble)


2-shaft Westinghouse geared tubines
4 boilers
27,000shp (design)


2,500nm at 20kts (design)

Armour - belt


 - deck



314ft 4in


30ft 10.5in


Four 4in/ 50 guns
One 3in/23 AA gun
Twelve 21in torpedoes in four triple mountings
Two depth charge tracks
One Y-Gun depth charge projector

Crew complement



29 July 1920


26 November 1920


1 March 1942

WWII Home Page | WWII Subject Index | WWII Books | WWII Links | Day by Day

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (10 April 2019), USS Edsall (DD-219) ,

Help - F.A.Q. - Contact Us - Search - Recent - About Us - Privacy